Following the tragic deaths occurring at nursing home facilities in New York City, particularly in Queens, due to the coronavirus pandemic, a Queens lawmaker is urging President Donald Trump to increase testing, funding, data and other resources to combat the spread of the virus.
In a letter sent to the president on April 18, Congresswoman Grace Meng called on the nation’s leader to “expeditiously manufacture COVID-19 tests, and prioritize them for New York so that long-term care facilities can conduct the testing that is needed.”
“It is of utmost importance that we ensure future allocations of emergency funding are prioritized for long-term care facilities,” Meng said in the letter. “We also need sufficient impact data on COVID-19 cases in these facilities so that we may contain and mitigate the spread of this virus. Furthermore, limited COVID-19 testing has a devastating ripple effect that will certainly revert any containment attempts.”
“Therefore, I ask you to increase our testing capabilities by using the Defense Production Act or any means possible within your authority, and prioritize nursing homes for tests as they become available before more of our elderly population succumbs to COVID-19 complications,” Meng added.
New York is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic and Queens has the highest number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes.
In total, 215 people have died in 11 nursing home facilities in Queens, according to a report released April 17 by the New York State Department of Health. About a fifth of the deaths occurred at the New York Franklin Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Flushing.
Meng is calling on Trump to replicate nationally the recent New York State requirement that long-term care facilities inform family members of residents within 24 hours of any coronavirus infections or deaths. This would allow families to make the necessary preparations or arrangements so they may save their loved ones, according to Meng.
“I hope our tragedy in Queens can be used to warn the entire nation of the importance in securing long-term care facilities,” Meng said.
Long-term care facilities have been struck with its own outbreak of unfortunate coronavirus deaths, as they operate beyond their normal capacity with insufficient staffing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect healthcare personnel and residents, according to Meng.
Furthermore, Meng said, long-term care facilities cannot test everyone who presents COVID-19 symptoms. These challenges compounded with insufficient testing capabilities have made it difficult to isolate suspected COVID-19 cases, consequently, making the fight against the highly contagious and invisibly “enemy” even harder.
“The elderly are among our most vulnerable populations. More must be done to protect them and we desperately need help from President Trump and his administration,” Meng said. “I implore him to provide the resources that our long term care facilities need, and to do so immediately. I await his reply to my letter.”